Zork Nemesis

Humm.

Just finished this.

Humm.

Zork. Zork is fun, it’s quirky, it’s the bedrock of the adventure genre. You know how it goes…

Colossal Cave (Adventure), Zork, everything else since…

It set the rules, defined how to make entertaining adventure games and made damn sure you didn’t wander around in the dark.

The Zork adventure games are bastions of frustration based entertainment. They are painfully complex, and I’ve still not finished the original ones. I play for a few hours, and then go for a lie down with a nice cup of tea.

I’ve played (and completed) Return to Zork, which proved that you could most definitely do frustration based entertainment with a point and click interface. I only needed a few lie downs for that one.

I’ve played Zork: Grand Inquisitor, which was a lot of fun, required no lie downs, and was more entertaining than frustrating. Whilst in Zork mythology, the lack of frustration almost disqualifies it as a Zork game.

And then there’s Zork Nemesis.

At some point, in every franchise’s history, there’s a period where someone decides it’s a good idea to try a “grim dark” story. For every Batman and Robin there’s a Dark Knight waiting to happen. And in some cases it works, in others it doesn’t.

This one is a halfway success.

Controls are Myst style - stand in a space, look around a 360 view, sometimes look up and down, and click where you want to go next. Inventory (no object interaction in inventory), objects slot in puzzles, or puzzles are solved independently of objects. Puzzles require the use of logic, sight and sound (there’s a few musical ones). Technical execution isn’t bad for the era, although there’s some discrepancy on the musical puzzles on the samples played to hear, and the samples played when you click on the objects.

There’s no dead ends, although there are a few deaths, and most frustratingly, there are a few potential death points immediately after complex, hit-and-miss sequences. It’s quite easy to make a simple mistake and undo 20 minutes good work, with no opportunity to save in between.

Storyline is … not Zork.

Sorry, it’s just not a Zork game. There’s very little humour, dark or otherwise. A talking head is about it. Everything else is grim-dark and set in a very tight world, there are only six major areas to explore. Each area is self-contained, which is either a blessing or a curse, depending on your viewpoint. It’s worth spending the time to read through all the documents and watch the cut scenes, but most of these have no bearing on finishing the game.

Grim tones, grim colours, grim characters. So little humour.

The endgame avoids some of the mistakes made earlier in the game. There is one opportunity for perma-death, but it should be so obvious it’s easily avoided (although I did fall for it the first time). The end puzzle is a nice one to solve, the conclusion is laughably brief.

Finished, although not entirely sure it was worth the effort.